As the holy month of Ramadan is underway, Muslims breaking their fast and Mumbai’s foodies head to Mohammed Ali Road each evening. Through the night, gullies off Mohammed Ali road erupt into a food frenzy, with a multitude of small stalls jostling for space with Mohammed Ali road’s heavy weight regulars.
What’s all the fuss about? Well, each evening marks the end of a day of fasting for Muslims; a time to eat delicious food and prepare their bodies and souls for the next day of fasting to come. However, even if you’re not observing Ramadan but just seeking good food, the stalls will welcome you with open arms.
Not For The Faint Hearted
Before we go any further, let us warn you that this is not food, nor a write up for the faint hearted or the faint stomached. If the thought of tongue soup, brain fry or cow udders going into your stomach makes you feel queasy then you’d better turn back.
Still with us? Great! We assure you that these dishes are so tasty that you’ll forget what you’re eating. But, let’s back up a bit. As you enter Mohammed Ali Road, ask one of the million people around to point you to Minara Masjid. As you get closer to it, you’ll pick up the smell of kebabs and roast meat just before you see the green mosque, towering over the food hub. And then, you will arrive.
Don’t get overwhelmed by the crowd; they’re all friendly, food seeking folk like yourself. Instead, allow the throngs to herd you through the street and take in all the glorious food around you. Once you’ve walked through the entire melee, head back to the beginning and walk through it slower, stopping every five minutes for some real eating. We recommend you start with the kebabs.
Every kebab ever known to mankind can be found here during this time of the year. Okay, we exaggerate. But there is an extensive rage of kebabs catering to all the kebabs that your kebab loving soul desires, from the soft, melt in your mouth shammi kebab to the creamy juicy malai kebab. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, try khiri, which is made from cow udders. It has a texture like nothing you’ve ever tasted before.
From the kebabs, move on to the soups. Take your pick between jubaan shorba (tongue soup) and paya (goat trotters’ soup).
Then, wander over to another stall (preferably with a sit down area, because this will get messy) and order a bowl of nail nihari; a delicious, spicy mutton masala that you mop up with bits of naan. Order some bheja masala to go with that, and you’ll end up with a very happy tongue.
The End (Just Desserts)
At this point, it’s likely that you’re almost stuffed to the rim. Leave a little room for dessert. One dessert that is generally only available during Ramadan are the steamed cakes that you see in the photograph above. Even after asking dozens of vendors, no one was able to arrive at a consensus about what they were called. The most common reply was ‘idli’, but, while these have the same texture as idlis, they taste more like a heavier version of phirni.
Another must try dessert is malpua, a pancake-like sweet that is a happy yellow, doused in sugar syrup. Also, take a bite of the mawa jalebi which is indigently more heavy and sweet than the regular jalebi.
At this point, you may have noticed that we’ve not been giving you names of places to try all these dishes. After paying a visit to Mohammed Ali Road you’ll understand why; each street stall’s food tastes just as good as the food from established names. However, if you’re an absolute stickler for names here are some age old tried and tested shops.
Just for Ramadan, the famous Bademiya opens up a stall in the Minara Masjid Area. Needless to say, it’s crowded with throngs of people looking for kebabs and rolls.
This sweet shop is another household name. It sells a range of delectable desserts from malpua to jalebis to phirni to barfi.
This isn’t a street stall, but it is a household name for delicious Mughlai food in the area. We stopped by Shalimar after our street food frenzy to catch our breaths and have a matka of their delicious phirni.
Shalimar is the perfect place to enjoy some truly rich food in air conditioned comfort. However, we strongly suggest you stop there after wandering through the street stalls under Minara Masjid. It’s a whole new experience – and it’s all for the love of good food.